A North Carolina man who police said set up a methamphetamine lab in a State College motel room will spend one to two years in prison after pleading guilty to two felonies.
Lee Caughron, of Gibsonville, N.C., pleaded guilty Friday to possession with intent to manufacture methamphetamine and possession of firearms without a license, accepting a plea agreement offered by Centre County District Attorney Michael Madeira.
Other drug-related charges were dropped, Madeira said.
The possibility of a plea agreement had been discussed since Caughron's August preliminary hearing, but it wasn't until Centre County Judge Bradley Lunsford refused to lower the 40-year-old's $1 million bail that Caughron accepted, Madeira said.
Caughron opted to serve his one-year minimum sentence instead of drawing out the legal process, Madeira said. Upon his release, he will return to North Carolina, he added.
A transient construction worker employed in Clinton County at the time, Caughron was arrested in late July at his second-floor room in the Imperial Motor Inn, 118 S. Atherton St., for possessing a portable methamphetamine lab, police said.
Acting on a tip from a nearby resident who saw him making frequent trips between his car and his motel, investigators raided the motel room, according to court documents.
Inside, they found drug paraphernalia, an unlicensed .22-caliber handgun and a Black and Decker tool bag, containing everything needed to manufacture methamphetamine cheap, court documents stated.
"The slang that the lab team used is a 'box lab,' " said State College Lt. Dana Leonard. "It's a highly portable method. It just requires some knowledge and materials, and the want to take the risk to do it."
But the lab, he added, was inoperative -- and there's no evidence that Caughron had begun producing the drug.
Police believe he acted alone and was not part of a larger drug network.
Police said that while searching Caughron's Ford Explorer, they also found a plastic bag containing about three grams of methamphetamine and a blister pack of 24 pseudophedrine capsules, worth a street value of $400.
Leonard said residues and precursors of methamphetamine are dangerous, and the materials were quickly cleared.
The motel room, which was clean at the time of the bust, Leonard added, was tested and found to be inhabitable.
Madeira said this wasn't the North Carolina man's first brush with the law.
"He's had some involvement with drugs in the past, for which he has been charged," Madeira said.
Now, with a felony offense on his record, Caughron could receive much more severe penalties in the case of another drug charge.
Caughron will serve his term at a state prison in Camp Hill, Pa.